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Pave the way for innovative accounting research and education.

Our competitive Ph.D. program prepares doctoral candidates to become productive researchers and educators at top research universities.

Accounting Doctoral Student Handbook

Accounting Ph.D. Program Overview

We pride ourselves on our comprehensive program, our internationally renowned faculty and the diverse environment in which our doctoral candidates learn. A key element of the Ph.D. in accounting program is collaborative work between doctoral students and faculty members. We strive to maintain a program with approximately 12 full-time, in-residence students. This size of the Accounting Ph.D. program allows for effective faculty-student interrelationships, collaboration and competitive funding for all students in residence.

Our department was ranked 14th overall in the 2021 Brigham Young University accounting faculty publication rankings (based on all publications since 1990) and was ranked 15th in the 2019 Public Accounting Report rankings of Ph.D. programs.

Accounting Ph.D. graduates enjoy considerable success in their careers. They are accounting professors at many nationally recognized universities and have earned national recognition for their contributions to the development of accounting research, teaching and practice. MSU graduates hold distinguished chairs in accounting, are editors of premier research journals and are authors of some of the largest selling accounting textbooks in the United States. They also hold positions as chairpersons or directors of major accounting departments, deans of business schools, and people with significant national accounting policy-making responsibilities. Our Doctorate in Accounting graduates distinguish themselves by the frequency with which they are members of editorial boards of leading accounting journals and by their successful publication of research. This emphasis on research and scholarship is the hallmark of MSU’s accounting doctoral programs.

Curriculum Overview

The Ph.D. in Accounting program is a five-year program for most students, although some students successfully complete the program in four years. We strive to maintain a program with approximately 12 full-time, in-residence students. This size of program allows for effective faculty-student interrelationships, collaboration and competitive funding for all students in residence.


The Broad College of Business and the Department of Accounting and Information Systems have course and other requirements for the Ph.D. degree that, in total, form a student’s program of study.

  1. Each student must know and be able to apply certain concepts, tools, and techniques of business practice. A student who enters the accounting Ph.D. program without having earned a business or management degree from an institution accredited by the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) must develop a broad understanding of the functional areas of business and management by completing coursework in accounting, finance, management, supply chain management and marketing. Students can petition the Doctoral Program Committee for exemption from this requirement based on coursework taken as part of a business or management degree that is not accredited by the AACSB (see Broad Graduate School of Management requirements).
  2. A student must have a minimum familiarity with certain concepts, tools and techniques of accounting practice. The materials covered in accounting courses ACC 300 and 301 or 805 and 807, 321 or 821, 331 or 833, 341 or 841 or 843, and 411 are sufficient to satisfy the minimum familiarity requirement. However, the minimum familiarity requirement is automatically fulfilled by students who enter the doctoral program with a degree in accounting from an AACSB-accredited accounting program. Alternatively, this requirement can be met by taking certain accounting courses at MSU or another institution with an accredited program. If a student has an accounting degree from an institution that is not accredited by the AACSB, then he/she could petition the doctoral program director to get a waiver for one or more of the required accounting courses by providing necessary supporting evidence.
  3. Each student must take a set of Ph.D.-level micro-economic courses (EC 811A, EC 812A and EC 812B, or AFRE 801, 802 and 805) in their first semester.
  4. The major field of study is accounting. The major in accounting consists of:

ACC 950: Doctoral Seminar in Accounting Research

Research on auditing, financial and managerial accounting, and taxation using theoretical perspectives and research methods from the social sciences and business disciplines. A total of four different research seminars are taken in the first and second year of the program.

MGT 906: Organizational Research Methods
Methods for scientific research in the areas of organizational behavior, personnel and organizational theory. Theory building, hypothesis formation and testing, reliability theory, construct validity, external validity and research design.


Each student has a minor field of study. The minor is a minimum of 9 hours of course work. The minor is intended to provide theoretical framework, perspective and content as a basis to conduct research in accounting. Examples of minors are micro-economics, finance, organizational behavior, operations management and psychology.



Competence in research-related areas is required. This requirement may be satisfied by completing a minimum of 12 credits in research-related courses with a four-course minimum. Courses must be at the 400-level or above to assure graduate-level competence in the areas studied. Research-related credits earned to meet the requirements of a degree other than the Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration will not be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement. These courses typically are research-method and statistics courses offered in departments such as economics, marketing, supply chain, psychology and statistics.

Each student must maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.25 by the end of the second semester of full-time enrollment and thereafter to remain in the program. A 2.0 grade is the minimum acceptable grade for a course in a student’s program of study or for graduation requirements.

Up to the time of dissertation proposal defense, each student must write two review reports per academic year in the style of referee reports (to be done under the advice of the doctoral program director).

In addition to dissertation research, Ph.D. students are required to complete two research projects as part of the program requirements. The first research project would entail a literature review and include a replication of selected segments from a paper in the area reviewed. Students are welcome to go beyond the minimum requirement for the first research project (e.g., a minor extension of the chosen paper). The second research project would be a completed working paper including testable hypotheses and results. This research paper could be an independent research paper or a paper co-authored with faculty members or other Ph.D. students in the department. The ultimate objective is to create a paper with sufficient quality to allow it to be submitted to a refereed scholarly journal in accounting or related disciplines.

Comprehensive Exam

Prior to taking the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, each student must have successfully completed the requirements for the first research project (including presenting in a departmental workshop) as well as completed four enrollments of the accounting Ph.D. seminars (ACC 950) and MGT 906. Given a student can take more than four enrollments of ACC 950, each student must obtain the prior approval of the doctoral program director for the four specific enrollments that would satisfy the prerequisites for the comprehensive exam. This examination is usually given in early summer and has three parts:

  • Parts 1 and 2: These two parts will cover the different subfields of accounting that were included in the accounting research seminars.
  • Part 3: Critique of a working paper in the student’s area of research interest.

The purpose of this examination is to test a student’s knowledge of the scholarly accounting literature, with emphasis on historical and contemporary issues, theories and research methods. In addition to assessing a student’s knowledge, the examination tests a student’s ability to design, evaluate and communicate scholarly research.

Each student must complete a doctoral dissertation judged to be a significant contribution to knowledge by a faculty committee consisting of not less than four members, one designated as chairperson who is an accounting faculty member from the MSU’s Department of Accounting and Information Systems. The doctoral dissertation proposal must be presented at the department research workshop series, with all the members of the student’s dissertation committee in attendance. The dissertation proposal must be approved by three-fourths of the student’s dissertation committee, including approval from the chair. A successful oral defense of the completed doctoral dissertation is required in an open meeting, with all the members of the student’s dissertation committee in attendance. See the Graduate School website for important dissertation requirements.

Students are admitted to the accounting doctoral program only for the fall semester and on a full-time basis. Find out more about admission criteria and the application process.

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Faculty-student collaboration is a significant part of the Broad experience. Doctoral accounting students have the opportunity to work with some of the top researchers across multiple disciplines. Find out more about the research opportunities for accounting doctoral students at MSU.

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The accounting faculty at the Michigan State University Broad College of Business are among the best in the world. Find out more about our faculty currently working with doctoral students.

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See a roster of current accounting doctoral students in the program and a listing of our graduates’ placements at research institutions across the globe over the last decade.

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Tuition and Financial Aid

At the present time, all doctoral students in accounting receive financial support from the department, the college, the university and/or various external organizations. Our goal is to provide every student admitted to the program with a graduate assistantship and/or a fellowship. The assistantship is usually at a half-time level. A half-time appointment requires that the student be a teaching assistant and/or a research assistant for 20 hours a week. Renewal of financial assistance is contingent on the student making satisfactory progress in the program.

Assistantships include a nine-credit hour tuition waiver (i.e. tuition is covered for up to nine credit hours per semester) for each of the fall and spring semesters, a waiver for the out-of-state portion of tuition for non-Michigan residents and health insurance. The waiver does not include registration fees or other fees.

For more information about funding sources, visit the MSU Graduate School.

Frequently Asked Questions

Program Overview

  • How long does it generally take to complete the Ph.D. in Accounting program?

    The program is designed to be completed in five years to give students the best chance at completing research projects prior to going on the job market in order to increase their odds of finding an elite research position. Occasionally, students with advanced research portfolios can graduate in four years.

  • Can I study part time and work full time?

    The doctoral program is strictly a full-time program. We require students to be on campus on a full-time basis, as doctoral students have a broad range of responsibilities including coursework, research assistantships and independent study.

  • What is a research assistantship?

    The range of responsibilities during your research assistantship are broad and cover aspects related to forming, developing, managing and executing a theoretically sound and statistically valid and rigorous research project. Students are required to conduct thorough literature reviews, develop and write conceptual framework and hypotheses development sections, collect and analyze data using advanced econometric methods and provide support for why the research is relevant and important to the academic and practitioner fields.

    Graduates of the accounting Ph.D. program at Broad frequently cite their experience as research assistants as the paramount reason for their ability to form, develop, manage and subsequently submit their research to top accounting journals after graduating from the doctoral program.

  • Where do MSU Ph.D. in Accounting graduates get hired?

    Recent placements include:

    • Florida State University
    • Harvard University
    • University of Florida
    • University of Notre Dame

    See Complete List of Placements


Financial Aid

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Contact Information

  • Department of Accounting and Information Systems
  • Business College Complex
  • 632 Bogue St Rm N270
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • Phone: (517) 355-7486
  • Fax: (517) 432-1101